May 21, 2018 | Nashville, TN

Statement from Conexión Américas’ Executive Director Renata Soto Regarding HB 2315

Today, Governor Haslam announced he will let the extremely anti-immigrant HB 2315 become law.

Conexión Américas strongly condemns Governor Haslam’s decision, which ignored the thousands of Tennesseans who voiced their concerns and made it the most opposed bill on his desk. Our state said no to this type of destructive legislation almost ten years ago, and that was the stand our state needed today.

But while Governor Haslam prepares to exit the governorship at the end of this year, he stopped exercising the type of leadership our state needs already, leaving a stain on our state and undermining the rights of thousands of Tennesseans.

Despite concern and pushback from a diverse group of voices, including law enforcement agencies, state business leaders, educators, local governments, national civil rights organizations and Tennesseans from across the state, Governor Haslam has decided to recklessly endanger the public safety and civil liberties of all Tennesseans. Instead of advancing social cohesion to move our state forward, Governor Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly are setting us back.

At a time when instances of racial profiling make headlines on a daily basis, Governor Haslam has chosen to legitimize and codify it. HB 2315 authorizes law enforcement to indiscriminately inquire about immigration status during routine interactions with residents, eroding our communities’ trust in local police. Without the trust and cooperation of the communities they serve, law enforcement will find it difficult to ensure the public safety of all Tennesseans. The insidious nature of this type of law is not theoretical. As the indictment of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona proved, these laws create an environment ripe for rights violations and abuse.

Tennessee will now learn the expensive lessons that come with attacking civil liberties. The law requires local law enforcement agencies to comply with constitutionally dubious detainer requests, which several courts have ruled violate our Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. Localities can only expect to deal with burdensome litigation, on top of the already unfunded mandate that comes with cooperating with federal immigration enforcement – they will receive no reimbursement for overtime pay for officers, or extra beds in jails.

The vibrancy of our state is powered by Tennesseans of all backgrounds and colors, immigrant and native-born, contributing to the economic and cultural vitality of our local communities.

Governor, by letting this un-American racial profiling law go into effect, you have put a target on the back of thousands of Tennesseans, rejected the values upon which our nation was founded, and set our state backwards.

While we are outraged by Governor Haslam’s decision, we are not defeated. Conexión Américas will continue to work with our Latino and immigrant community and partners to protect our families and defend our civil liberties.